A teen with muscular dystrophy fulfilled his dream of graduating high school just days before his death

WJHLDakota Johnson is pictured receiving his high school diploma.
  • Dakota Johnson, from Johnson City, Tennessee, received his high school diploma on Wednesday, just two days before his death.
  • Johnson had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and had been enrolled in homebound schooling since seventh grade.
  • Johnson was admitted to Johnson City Medical Center last week for heart failure, so the hospital hosted a graduation ceremony for him on Wednesday.
  • Johnson died on Friday.
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A 19-year-old with severe muscular dystrophy fulfilled his lifelong dream of graduating high school just days before his death.

Dakota Johnson, from Johnson City, Tennessee, had been enrolled in homebound schooling since seventh grade due to a fight with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, WJHL reported. The genetic disorder causesprogressive muscle degeneration and primarily affects boys.

The teen told his teacher, Allison Russell, that he hoped to go to prom and graduate from Science Hill High School before senior year was done.

He didn’t get to go to prom, but he did complete his school work.

Russell hosted a graduation ceremony for Johnson at Johnson City Medical Center on Wednesday after he was admitted last week for heart failure.

“What mattered most to me is that I wanted Dakota to experience that and his grandmother to experience that,” Russell told WJHL. Johnson had been raised by his grandmother.


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Johnson held his high school diploma and wore a cap and gown in his hospital bed while posing for photos with family and friends.

Two days later, on Friday, Johnson died.

His aunt, Susan Breeden, told WJHL that the family will be “forever grateful” to Johnson’s school and the Johnson City Medical Center for helping him graduate.

Family friend Carrie Stamper Medley told CNN that it was a “blessing” Johnson was able to receive his diploma.

“It’s like God was waiting to take him,” she said.

Johnson City Schools Superintendent Steve Barnett said in a statement to WJHL that the district was “saddened” over Johnson’s death.

“Dakota’s persistence and hard work earned him his degree and we were honored and grateful to bring graduation to him to allow him and his family to enjoy a very special moment,” he said.

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